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Song spotlight: “Button Up Your Overcoat”

The temperatures are below freezing here in the Kansas City area, and there is snow and ice on the ground. Thus, our theme song for the week: “Button Up Your Overcoat.”

The song starts out with these lyrics:

Button up your overcoat when the wind is free
Take good care of yourself – you belong to me!
Eat an apple everyday, get to bed by three
Take good care of yourself – you belong to me!

Here’s a great recording of this song by Dorothy Collins:

I use this song often with my elderly clients this time of year, whether they are in residential facilities, hospice, or private homes. It’s great to use in music therapy groups as well as in private sessions with older adults and their family members. Of course, the title/first line is a great way to start a discussion – I point out to my clients that there is snow on the ground outside as I unbundle myself from all of my winter weather gear. This concrete starting point helps with reality orientation for folks who are confused, and it’s a good jumping off point for talking about the main ideas of the song.

What are the main ideas? First, you need to take care of yourself. Why? Because someone cares about you, and, more specifically, I care about you. These are important messages for people at every stage of life, but especially for people who are depressed or anxious and need a reason to keep going, or for people who, because of a dementia process, find themselves in an unfamiliar setting surrounded by people they don’t really know.

Emphasizing these main ideas, you can take the discussion of this song in several directions. To stay more concrete, for people who have dementia or are otherwise confused, you can talk about concrete self-care steps (“eat an apple every day” and “get to be by three”). You can also talk about the larger, more abstract notion of taking care of oneself (who determines what is good for us? How do I decide how to take care of myself? What steps can I take to care for myself better?) You can even let this song start a discussion about caregiving (who have you cared for in the past? What kinds of rules did you give your children to keep them healthy?) As always, the path of the discussion will vary depending on the listeners’ needs and whether you’re sharing this song with an individual or with a group.

I think any caregiver could share this song with their favorite older adult as a way to start a conversation. Music therapists might use this song as part of a larger session about winter weather or self-care, or they might extend the musical experience with this song by facilitating songwriting, adding extra lines about ways to take care of yourself. This song could be a musical entrance to a drumming experience as well.

I hope you can take this song as a starting point for a conversation with your client or loved one. Please share the self-care topics you discussed in the comments below, and stay warm!

This post is part of an occasional series on special songs to share with your loved ones. For more song spotlights, click here.

4 comments… add one
  • Sherrye

    Ooh.. I love using this song. I agree with your tips in the blog. I’ve also used this song in a songwriting exercise asking them to come up with their own tips for staying well. Also, my residents love to sing the “ooh ooh” part on their own and I don’t even prompt them.

    Sherrye

    • soundscapemusictherapy

      Thanks for your comment, Sherrye! You’re definitely right about the “ooh ooh” part – that’s another strength of this song for folks with lower verbal skills. Thanks for mentioning that!

  • I just adore using this song! I can’t help asking people if they really go to bed at 3. The most memorable response I’ve heard: “Things were simpler then”. 🙂

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